Sal Mineo (January 10, 1939 - February 12, 1976) was a gay US actor and theater director, famous for his Academy Award-nominated performance opposite James Dean in Rebel Without A Cause.
Mineo, born in New York, the son of Sicilian emigrants, was enrolled by his mother in dancing and acting school at an early age. Soon thereafter, in 1950, he had his first stage appearance in The Rose Tattoo, a piece by Tennessee Williams. He also played the young prince opposite Yul Brynner in the musical, The King And I.
While explicit mention of homosexuality was not permissible in Hollywood movies at the time, bisexual James Dean dared Mineo to let his real-life desires for Dean shine through considerably in the scenes with him. Mineo was later reunited with Dean in Giant, albeit only in a few scenes.
His slightly exotic good looks also earned him roles such as that of an Indian boy in Tonka or of a Jewish emigrant in Otto Preminger's Exodus, for which he received another Academy Award nomination. In the 1960s, rumors about his sexual orientation began to spread, prompting Hollywood's increasing reluctance to cast him in A-list movies. Thus, he turned to the stage again, producing the gay-themed Fortune And Men's Eyes, starring Don Johnson of later Miami Vice fame.
Coming home from an audition for the play, P.S. Your Cat Is Dead (later to be adapted into a movie by Police Academys Steve Guttenberg), where he was to play a gay burglar, Mineo was stabbed to death at age 37 in front of his West Hollywood home.
Although a man called Lionel Ray Williams was later sentenced to life in prison for killing Mineo, considerable doubts about Williams' involvement in the crime remained, since there apparently was no immediate motive for the murder. Williams was paroled after serving 12 years (1990) but has been jailed numerous times since for parole violations.
Sal Mineo is interred in the Gate of Heaven Cemetery, Hawthorne, New York.